A former classmate was talking about fat female bodies and their portrayal in art. She seemed amazed that the old Dutch masters preferred to paint curvy women. Instead of concluding that curvy women were the ideal, she thought Rubens was a particularly kind painter to non-endomorphs.
“They weren’t afraid to show their flaws” she kept repeating. I tried to explain that Rubens and those in his culture did not see ‘fat’ women as ugly, but as ideal. Dimpled thighs were not flaws but markers of beauty and wealth the same way protruding collar bones and Gucci purses are desired by (some) women in our culture now.
I tried to explain that in Europe and some parts of North America at various times, muscle definition was a flaw as were square shoulders. Women were taught to keep their shoulders sloped and rounded in the early 1800s.
Even in this 1899 poster, the Amazon woman has no visible muscle definition and narrow shoulders. (See http://www.flickr.com/photos/taisau/36089690/http://www.flickr.com/photos/taisau/36089690) for the essay that goes with the poster.)
The thighs of our modern Amazon, Wonder Woman, are not dimpled, but defined. (However I miss the more dominant or assertive pose of her ancestor. )
But, I could not get my classmate to see that Rubens was not a revolutionary fat-activist but a popular painter. She could not imagine cellulite as anything but a flaw. It is the same with church history. Even when reading the gospels and literally seeing how the Jesus character evolved and began to show different traits, the evolution of thought cannot be accepted. We find an explanation that doesn’t fit the evidence, but fits our current cultural story.
If cellulite is always a flaw, then a painter would only paint it to be generous. ?
If Jesus is always a deity, then his (contradictory) representations do not represent change in thought, but a different facet of his divine character. ?